The Smithsonian Institution Archives began its Oral History Program in 1973. The purpose of the program is to supplement the written documentation of the Archives' record and manuscript collections with an Oral History Collection, focusing on the history of the Institution, research by its scholars, and contributions of its staff. Program staff conduct interviews with current and retired Smithsonian staff and others who have made significant contributions to the Institution. There are also interviews conducted by researchers or students on topics related to the history of the Smithsonian or the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Ocana was interviewed for the Smithsonian Institution Archives Oral History Collection because of his research career in agronomy in Panama, as a professor at the University of Panama and researcher and administrator at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.
This interview of Ocana by Pamela M. Henson of Smithsonian Institution Archives discusses his family, education, work as an agronomist and professor in Panama, and career at STRI, especially his agriforestry project. The collection consists of 2.5 hours of audiotape recordings and 34 pages of transcript. For a videotaped interview of Ocana at the site of the agriforestry project on Gigante Peninsula, see Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9553, Conservation of Endangered Species Videohistory Interviews.
Gilberto Ocana (1931-2004), agronomist specializing in tropical flora, received the B.S. from the Ecole Nationale d'Agriculture in Alger, Algeria, in 1955. From 1955 to 1960, he served on the staff of the Servicio Interamericano de Cooperacion Agricola en Panama and taught at the Agricultural School of the University of Panama from 1961 to 1963. In 1967, he received the Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of California at Riverside. He then returned to the University of Panama, serving as Dean as well as Professor of Agronomy. In 1980, he joined the staff of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) as manager of the Barro Colorado Nature Monument, a nature preserve consisting of Barro Colorado Island and its surrounding peninsulas. While at STRI, he developed an experimental farm at Las Pavas on the Gigante Peninsula that would restore soils destroyed by cattle grazing and provide a comfortable income for small farmers. He retired from STRI in 1993.
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